Jonathan Zwicker - Assistant Professor of Japanese Literature, University of Michigan
In 1815, Shikitei Sanba wrote manuscript prefaces for two privately produced books: a scrapbook in which he had collected ephemera and broadsheets related to the history of Edo’s raconteurs and a much more ambitious compilation, a sixteen volume collection of playbills that traced the history of the city’s licensed kabuki theaters, the earliest examples dating back a century to the 1720s. As physical objects, both books are deeply suggestive: each is a manuscript comprised entirely of printed matter, a unique object fashioned from the mass produced. These collections are constituted of ephemera, of the commercial and the mundane, but ephemera are here prized not as commerce but as history. Professor Zwicker’s talk uses these collections to think about the status of the historical imagination in the early decades of the nineteenth century, a time when the theater loomed large as a metaphor for the broader social world and a time when that world came increasingly to be defined by print and commerce. Yet even as Sanba’s scrapbooks are themselves born of this world of print and commerce, they seek to create a separate register of historical experience - preserving, recording, and recounting a world that was gradually disappearing even as it was being produced.